|Tipping the scales at three tons and casting a 17-foot shadow, the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe defines the large American SUV. In 2007 General Motors redesigned the Tahoe and its larger brother, the Suburban, by placing it on the beefy GMT900 chassis, shared with the Silverado pickup. This strong platform makes for a rough-and-ready SUV that's more than capable of handling some real work.
Chevrolet offers the Tahoe in rear-wheel- and four-wheel-drive versions and in four different trim levels (LS, LT, LTZ, and Hybrid). Standard across most of the range is a version of the venerable Chevy small-block V8, displacing 5.3 liters, that delivers confident acceleration. The Tahoe Hybrid's sophisticated dual-mode drivetrain returns decent fuel economy, though its high price hasn't helped it find much marketplace acceptance.
The 2011 Tahoe's well-designed cabin comes loaded with standard equipment and can be upgraded with luxurious options like ventilated front seats and a Bose Centerpoint stereo. Safety features like side torso airbags, combined with its 6,000-pound curb weight, make the Tahoe a strong performer in crash tests. At the pump, however, buyers will feel the sting of the 2011 Tahoe's 15-mpg city fuel economy rating. A 5.3-liter small-block V8, cast in iron and topped by iron pushrod heads, sees duty in all non-hybrid 2011 Tahoes. Admirably powerful, the V8 delivers 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque on a flat curve. Acceleration while unladen is enthusiastic, and the Tahoe has plenty of reserve passing power. Yet the 5.3-liter's elderly architecture can't match its rivals for refinement or power delivery. The Ford Expedition's Triton SOHC V8 produces more torque, and Toyota's all-aluminum, 32-valve Sequoia engine bests many luxury-car motors for velvety smoothness.
The Tahoe's six-speed automatic transmission, standard for gas-only trims, serves up crisp, well-timed shifts and features a tow/haul mode for better load-pulling power. All Tahoe trims are available in rear-wheel- and four-wheel-drive flavors. 4WD variants get an electronic on-demand system with optional low-range transfer case that ensures excellent traction on or off-road. 2011 Tahoe's can tow up to 8,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Chevrolet remains alone in offering a full-size hybrid SUV for 2011. The Tahoe Hybrid's dual-mode gas-electric system boosts the Tahoe's city fuel economy by 33%, mating a larger, 6.0-liter V8 engine (borrowed from the Suburban) The 2011 Tahoe's independent front and five-link rear suspension are tuned for maximum comfort. Plenty of articulation and soft springs contribute to a supple, smooth ride both on and off-road. While the luxurious ride is nice, the Tahoe's tall ride height and considerable bulk mean that a lot of weight transfer occurs in tight corners, resulting in significant body lean. The top-line Tahoe LTZ gets Autoride adaptive suspension dampening that claims to maximize comfort and control.
Around town the Tahoe's steering is light and accurate and facilitates reasonably easy handling. Tight parking spots or alleys will still pose a problem, but the Tahoe is surprisingly easy to place once you get used to its dimensions. Though helpful around town, the numb steering does the Tahoe no favors in the twisties or on the highway, where path accuracy could be better. Tahoe LS and LT trims ride on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with chunky 70-series tires. 20-inch wheels are optional on the lower trims and standard on the LTZ, while the Hybrid wears unique 18-inchers. Spaciousness is a common trait among large SUVs, and the 2011 Tahoe is no exception. With over 109 cubic feet of cargo capacity, the Tahoe can swallow lots of gear, though the cumbersome rear seats must be ditched to achieve maximum load space. Eight passengers can be carried in base- and mid-level Tahoes, while captain's chairs spruce up the top-level LTZ's interior, but limit seating capacity to seven. First- and second-row legroom is excellent, but the Tahoe's (relatively) short overall length means the third row is tight and comfortable only for children.
The 2011 Tahoe's classy, well-fitted cabin is a welcome change from the plasticky GM interiors of yore. With pleasing contours and top-quality materials, the Tahoe finally has a dashboard to match the competition. Convincing faux wood and soft-touch plastics surround a center stack that features well-placed radio and climate controls. The tall driving position and lack of adjustable pedals in base trims might not suit smaller drivers, but the wide, supportive seats are comfortable for all. Standard features on the base Tahoe LS include power windows, locks, mirrors, and seats, three-zone manual climate control, and an AM/FM/CD stereo with Bluetooth and satellite radio. The step-up LT trim adds leather seats, electronic climate control, and premium speakers. The top-line LTZ and Hybrid trims get standard GPS navigation, heated and cooled seats, and a remote power liftgate. Chevrolet has made front, side, and curtain airbags standard in every 2011 Tahoe trim. That commitment to safety continues with electronic stability control and OnStar crash notification. Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS provide good stopping power, though the pedal isn't exactly firm. In government crash testing the 2011 Tahoe earned five stars for both front and side impacts, but only three stars in the rollover test. Please call Helton Auto at 719-375-8800 for additional questions
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